Review: The Riot Ensemble - Dutilleux Les citations @ Cardiff University Concert Hall
The Riot Ensemble
Cardiff University Concert Hall
Tuesday 15th March 2016
The start of this year featured many tributes to that wonderful French composer, Henri Dutilleux.
Much respect has been given to this old master and his music has an intoxicating appeal, which we haven't really seen since Debussy and Ravel.
The Riot Ensemble are admittedly a peculiar mix of players. On this night was a harpsichord, double bass, oboe and percussion. Arlene Sierra with her super small nod to Henri, in Petite Grue, started things off but left a small impression. The unprogrammed Wired by Chris Roe had a real metallic bite to it and felt like a more superior concert opener. Kenneth Hesketh's arrangement of Dutilleux's of two piano works are a pleasing edition: Mini-prelude en eventail and Blackbird.
The former depicts a fan opening, flapping then closing and the latter inspired by obvious birdsong traits. Each had a brief dynamic structure (the vibraphone used to effective use) though once again, couldn't make much of a statement due to their time. Jose Manuel Serrano's Cenizas de in madrigal triste (Ashes of a Sad Madrigal) had a severe nature and atmosphere, but shortly lost its edge. The composer's obsessions with ashes leave little to the imagination and we will no doubt here more "ash" like music in the future.
Dutilleux, billed last like previous concerts has been the selling point of all these events. The best is saved for last in his Les citations, with quotes from other composers. A wink to Peter Grimes is apparently in the score and I could not tell. But here, the strange mix of instruments that makes up The Riot Ensemble, comes into their own. The surreal mix adds much character and flavour to a score he tinkered with again, a year before his death at age 95.
You hear the oboe with new ears, as it gloriously goes out of tune, like an old alarm (with many sincere moments as well), the harpsichord is slammed and bullied to give out those shrill pangs of notes, the percussion is delicate and evocative and the double bass at times bordering on jazz. It's floats between melody and dissonance in an impeccable way, one never really being more vital than the other. It's what I was waiting for and I was most pleased with the outcome.
Celebrations for Satie are now taking over, but the journey of hearing Dutilleux again after an eight year absence has been an eye opener and a real pleasure.
I just hope we get to hear some more before the year is up.
Rating: 4 stars
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Image by: Cardiff University